On Being Mentored and Mentoring

Leston Havens, M.D. - psychiatrist, writer, professor and Honorary ISPS member, died July 29, 2011. He had been in hospice care in Belmont, not far from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he worked for so many years. He was 86.

Leston Laycock Havens was born in New York on July 31, 1924. He grew up in Brooklyn, the younger of two children, and the son of an attorney. He attended Williams College, graduating in 1947 having studied history and philosophy. He earned his medical degree from Cornell in 1952.

He began his residency in internal medicine in New York; in 1954 he began psychiatric residency at Boston Psychopathic Hospital. Over the years he had affiliations with Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Cambridge Hospital, and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Dr. Havens was the keynote speaker at the 2005 ISPS-US annual meeting. He is the author or co-author of seven books.

Harold Bursztajn, M.D., a member of the Boston area branch [of ISPS], first met Havens in 1973. "He was a faculty and I was a student member of the Harvard Medical School's Admissions Subcommittee chaired by the legendary medical diagnostician, A. Stone Freedberg, M.D. In one instance, one of the youngest applicants ever to be considered by Harvard Medical School was interviewed by me and presented to the committee. Freedberg was trying his best to be skeptical yet open-minded and asking "What is the evidence?" and Havens was deeply engaged in listening.

"As the discussion proceeded the remainder of the committee passionately and vociferously became focused on the applicant's age, diversity of interests, and lateness in arriving for the scheduled interview to conclude incorrigible immaturity … I, the presenter, was the only student member. It seemed that it was a foregone conclusion that the candidate was going to be rejected. Yet, just before the vote was taken, Freedberg turned to Les. In a few sentences, Les acknowledged, even empathized with the objections raised; he then proceeded to detail how in the course of reflecting on the data presented, he had, much to his own surprise, discovered himself as being blindly prejudiced by the distractions of age, diversity of interest, and the annoyance of being tightly scheduled himself. He then went over the gist of the data that had been presented. And then stated, he had changed his mind and was now supportive of the candidate.

"There was a stunned silence in the room. The ever open-minded Freedberg joined Les to say that, as skeptical as he had been, he had changed his mind. The applicant was admitted; and as I have had the opportunity to first mentor that applicant and then follow his career over nearly four decades, he has been a wonderful contributor to many a patient's quality of life."

Said Bursztajn, "I have had the opportunity to subsequently be taught and mentored by Les and work with him, and his mentees and colleagues as a colleague. There are a variety of contributions that Les has made to the care of patients suffering from psychosis and at high risk for suicide. I hope that Les's commitment to be free to explore his own humanity and identify his own countertransference, to share what was helpful of that process with his colleagues and patients in the service of patient care, and to change his mind will not be forgotten."